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IBM FlashSystem 9100 – Product Brief

Last updated December 28th, 2018 for annual review and updates. Concise 5-page overview of the features and functionality of the IBM FlashSystem 9100. Product Brief includes EvaluScale Reviewing Methodology. Download the free Product Brief now!

Overview

The IBM FlashSystem 9100 is an end-to-end NVMe storage system meaning it supports NVMe over Fabric with Fibre Channel and Ethernet as well as attaching storage devices in the form of SSDs and FlashCore Modules using PCIe with NVMe protocol.  The FlashSystem 9100 has two models, the 9110 and 9150, targeted with the performance and capacity to cover requirements from mid-tier to high-end enterprises.  With Spectrum Virtualize software in the FlashSystem 9100, it is capable of virtualizing other attached storage systems providing common administration, advanced features such as replication and snapshots, and the ability to seamless migrate data.  The FlashSystem 9100 is a scale-out storage system with the basic unit being a pair of controllers that can be scaled to four pairs or eight controllers in a cluster. Included in the system is data reduction in Data Reduction Pools price.  Data is deduplicated, compressed, and compacted as it is received in the 9100 controllers and stored in reduced form.  Data in the virtualized external storage systems may also be reduced.

Storage devices used in the FlashSystem 9100 include NVMe protocol SSDs and FlashCore Modules.  The FlashCore modules were re-engineered from the original FlashSystem 900 to attach to the controllers using PCIe and support the NVMe protocol.  FlashCore modules are in a 2.5” form factor.

The functionality of the FlashSystem is the same as the IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), Storwize systems, and FlashSystem V9000.  The management is a web-based GUI that is highly advanced, targeted at an IT generalist.  Different from most other storage systems, the advanced features are pre-installed on the FlashSystem 9100 with many being included in the base price of the system.  Additional cost features are enabled with license keys.

The virtualization of external storage systems from a variety of vendors has two forms that can be utilized.  One is to explicitly map the LUNs (volumes) from the external storage for host access through the FlashSystem and the other is to migrate the data through the FlashSystem to internal or external storage to take advantage of the block-level virtualization with the advanced features for thin provisioning, wide striping, and the EasyTier automated data tiering.  Since all the accesses are through the FlashSystem controllers, this type of virtualization has been called an “in-band” type of virtualization approach.

For high availability, FlashSystem 9100 runs in a paired configuration with custom clustering software.  Clustering for a scale out configuration is supported for up to four pairs of controllers.  (Note – IBM uses the term ‘node’ for a controller rather than a pair of controllers, which is different from most other vendors).

Transparent Cloud Tiering allows volumes to be tiered to clouds including Amazon S3, OpenStack Swift, and IBM Softlayer.  IBM Cloud Object Storage is also a tiering target.

IBM Storage Insights is included with the FlashSystem purchase, providing storage analytics and monitoring.  Storage Insights improves resiliency, manages problem resolution, and has storage resource management reporting.

For the FlashSystem 9100, IBM has an evergreen program where the controllers will be replaced with purchase of a three-year hardware and software maintenance agreement.

Usage

The IBM FlashSystem 9100 is targeted as a high-end and mid-tier enterprise general purpose, block storage system with the ability to virtualize existing storage systems as a consolidation solution.  End-to-End NVMe support on the 9100 gives the system performance capabilities to address demanding applications and for consolidation of multiple workloads to a single platform.

  • Characteristics
    • Performance – IBM has released performance data stating 2.5M IOPs from a single system with a pair of controllers and 10M IOPs from a cluster of four pairs. Bandwidth performance quoted as 30GB/s.
    • Performance – 4K read miss (without caching)
      • 1,200,000 IOPs (4,800,000 in cluster)
    • Availability – The FlashSystem 9100 is dual controller nodes as a system with the option clustered nodes. It is designed as a high availability system with the ability for failover between controllers.
    • Replication for BC/DR – Remote mirroring, both synchronous (FC) and asynchronous (FC and IP), is supported along with consistency groups. File replication is asynchronous over Ethernet.
    • Active-active stretched clusters are supported between two sites with HyperSwap
    • Encryption for internal and external storage
    • Data reduction – deduplication, compression, and compaction
  • Applications
    • The FlashSystem 9100 is targeted at any block storage application. As a general purpose storage system, the 91000 fits a very wide of application applicability.
  • System environments
    • The FlashSystem 9100 has been integrated with VMware Site Recovery Manager and has support for VAAI, VASA 2.0 and VVOL.
    • With the ability to virtualize other storage systems and provide both passthru LUN access and non-disruptive migration of LUNs, FlashSystem 9100 is well suited as a consolidation solution.
  • Deployment and Administration
    • The FlashSystem 9100 has a new, intuitive GUI ported that allows it to be installed and managed by a customer with moderate storage skills.
    • The management is integrated into IBM management products (Tivoli) but can also be completely managed from the GUI.
    • A mobile application for management is available as a download from the Apple App Store.

Evaluator Group EvaluScale: IBM FlashSystem 9100 – SAN Storage

Evaluator Group product review methodology “EvaluScale” assesses each product within a specific technology area.  The definitions of the criteria and explanations of how products are reviewed can be found in the  Evaluator Series Evaluation Guide. Download the product brief now to view the EvaluScale for this product.

Evaluator Group Opinion: Differentiating elements for IBM FlashSystem 9100

The IBM FlashSystem 9100 system is a high-performance, scale-out block storage system built-on the mature Spectrum Virtualize software.  The End-to-End NVMe capability is a major step for IBM, giving them a system with leading technology and performance to compete in the block storage space for enterprises.  The major value for customers is with the block storage system and the ability to scale performance and capacity and the integration of Spectrum Virtualize software to virtualize externally attached storage systems.

Advanced features of replication, snapshot and tiering to clouds are very complete implementations.  Inline data reduction with compression, deduplication, and compaction utilizes the Intel chip set with the Skylake processors, removing the normal performance impacts seen in other solutions that utilize software algorithms.

The scale out capability is another advanced feature for block storage.  Currently the system scales to four pairs of controllers but we would expect this to be increased at some point.  The storage virtualization features are the same as offered with the SVC and provide great customer value.

Evaluator Group believes the FlashSystem 9100 system to be a leading high-end and midrange block storage with the advanced features, scale-out capability, storage virtualization, and data reduction.  Support for NVMe over Fabric will greatly increase the performance capability.


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